You are Unregistered, please register to use all of the features of Homesteading Today!    
Homesteading Forum

Go Back   Homesteading Forum > General Homesteading Forums > Homesteading Questions

LinkBack Thread Tools Rate Thread
Old 02/15/10, 02:34 PM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 40
How to start a homestead with nothing ?

Lots of people lost their homes and jobs recently and bad credit will mean less money and loans available for people wanting to start a homestead.

So here are a few ideas I used when started my homestead with nothing but $200 and an old truck and camp trailer.


you may already have some land or a family member or friend that will let you use or pay for land over time.

Owner sellers, people may want to sell a piece of land on terms but always read the contract carefully.

Ebay, auctions, and tax sales may get you some cheap land but as always visit the land and check zoning and building permits before buying.


You can haul water in, drill a well, and harvest rainwater. Nearby streams could be used but always have water tested before use.


Grid connections may be available but expensive. Small solar and wind systems are not very expensive if you have minimal needs.


Grow a garden, raise small animals like rabbits and chickens, plant fruit and nut trees.


Use a small camp trailer to live in or tent if necessary while you build a small well insulated cabin that can have additions built on later.


A septic tank can be installed or composting toilet used. Your rv has a collecting tank and there are septic holding pump services available.

My own story:

I started with a small piece of land I inherited and lived in a camp trailer with one harbor Freight solar panel to power a few lights and water pump. I used propane for all other appliances.

By having no house payments and utility bills I was able to save money and within a year I built a small solar cabin with a larger solar system. My cabin cost less than $2000 to build and I used recycled windows and doors to keep costs down and purchased lumber direct from a sawmill for deck and finish.

To save money I recycled all the propane appliances from my camp trailer for the cabin. Fridge, stove, furnace, OD water heater, sinks, water pump, lights, water tank were all recycled.

I planted a garden and built a chicken tractor and rabbit pens for food and I hunt and fish for most of my food supplies.

I hand drilled a water well and collect rainwater and graywater for gardening.

For septic I use a solar composting toilet of my own design and all waste is safely recycled back into my own soil improving it for planting.

Because I have no house payments and no utility bills I was able to save more money and start a small business. I now work only for myself and can keep most of the money I make.

My homestead is not 100% self sufficient but I have the security of knowing I have a roof over my head, power, water, and food supply that I control.

I have videos of my homestead on youtube for ideas:
I am always happy to answer questions and share ideas on simple homesteading!
Reply With Quote
Old 02/15/10, 02:47 PM
Brenda Groth
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Michigan
Posts: 7,817
we started our homestead with the purchase of a home and land for $8000..sure we had to put a lot into it..but we were able to take our time and do it..started out with 8 acres with a very old house (1800) and a few small outbuildings that were falling down.

we were fortunate to have a wood burning cook stove in the house..(mich)..and the payments were really small at the we were very poor.

we had lovely friends that gave us plants to get our gardens moving..and a lot of hard work and 39 years later we have a very lovely homestead
Reply With Quote
Old 02/15/10, 03:42 PM
ErinP's Avatar
Too many fat quarters...
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: SW Nebraska, NW Kansas
Posts: 8,545
More thoughts on power and water:

A lot of states (or areas within states) have public power districts.
Usually they have a certain range within which they'll hook you up for free. In my area of Kansas, it was the first quarter mile, and the last quarter mile, provided we use their service for X number of years. No minimum. Between that, it was your cost. (Fortunately, we only needed less than a half mile)
In SW Nebraska it was going to be nearly a mile for free but the house had to be all electric. Or, nearly 3/4 if no electric heating...

So far as water, most people think that if they can't hit well water, they can't build. I can't tell you how many people think DH and I are insane for building before we even know if we have water or not.
I'm always quick to point out that a lot of water falls from the sky (14" on average) and people used cisterns in this country for a long time... In fact, most places still have the old cistern behind the house, even if they don't use it anymore.

For us, land was definitely the limiting factor. It was really difficult to find anything under about 300 acres (we couldn't afford that much, much as we wished we could!) or over 2 (which isn't enough in our area to serve any sort of use).
We watched for nearly 3 years before we found something workable and even then, we knowingly paid nearly 60% more than it appraised.

Last edited by ErinP; 02/15/10 at 03:45 PM.
Reply With Quote
Old 02/15/10, 11:14 PM
chewie's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: central south dakota
Posts: 4,096
wow, that was great! i looked at several more of your videos. the only holdback of why we didn't go this way (built a bigger house) was we have kids, and i needed a large art studio. i esp love that 16x16 cabin you have on youtube, with the addition. when i see things like what you've done, makes me worry we over did it! very nice!!!
Reply With Quote
Old 02/15/10, 11:28 PM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 40
Thanks for the great responses guys!

I think it really helps people thinking about homesteading to hear from people that did it on the cheap or learn from the struggles we encountered.

Chewie, I think people should build a house that fits their needs and if you need more room then that is fine by me.

I do recommend for young couples or single people to start with a small basic home that can have additions built on later. Thats the way most old homesteaders did it and that way you don't overbuild and can save the money for when and if you need more room.

Erin, you are very right and land isn't cheap everywhere. You may have to buy rough land without roads or any amenities but a good homesteader can build a homestead on a rock and I know some that have.

Good advice on the water hookup and in some cases a grid hookup may be cheaper than solar and wind.

Ron, a very good point you brought up is refurbishing an old homestead. These homes may be grandfathered in so no new permits to build.

Also that you can't expect everything all at once. A homestead is always a work in progress!
Reply With Quote
Old 02/15/10, 11:42 PM
Nevada's Avatar
Voice of Reason
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Posts: 39,311
Originally Posted by survivalpro View Post

you may already have some land or a family member or friend that will let you use or pay for land over time.

Owner sellers, people may want to sell a piece of land on terms but always read the contract carefully.

Ebay, auctions, and tax sales may get you some cheap land but as always visit the land and check zoning and building permits before buying.
Of course if a family member has some land you can use that's great, but that's not an option for most people.

EBay can be affordable. I used to sell land on eBay and made a lot of money. I got my product by making offers to motivated property owners. You can do a lot better by making direct offers than buying at eBay. Get your info from the assessor's office and mail letter offers of the assessed value to out of state owners. You'll get a few bites.

If you need an emergency living situation then move to a state where mining claims are still offered and stake a 20-acre placer claim (you don't really have to locate any minerals to do that). While you don't want to make a lot of improvements that you might lose or have to remediate, a mining crew (i.e., you and your family) is allowed to live on the claim. A travel trailer is a good solution for living on a mining claim.
Reply With Quote
Old 02/16/10, 06:36 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 1,905
here's a story about someone living in alaska, who built a yurt-like structure on a shoe-string budget with scraps. might be some ideas or inspiration for some:

Reply With Quote
Old 02/17/10, 09:47 AM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: MN
Posts: 1,885
Great post survivalpro, thanks for the link. I really wish I could do something like this but I think that DH and the 5 kids would be mortified! LOL We have 10 acres free and clear (it has gardens, fruit trees and well) and I know if anything were to ever happen we could live off of it. Even if it isn't what you have, its good to know we could do it.

How long have you lived there?

Last edited by MN Gardener; 02/17/10 at 09:59 AM.
Reply With Quote
Old 02/17/10, 04:11 PM
Posts: n/a
Great site and videos! Love it! I personally think you should up the price of that ebook! People will most likely pay more than $5 for it!
Reply With Quote
Old 02/17/10, 04:39 PM
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: NC
Posts: 1,352
Wish I could see the videos - dialup - sigh.

We started out much the same way. Bought 3 acres carved out of a cow pasture back in 1974. The land cost us $1,500. We had to pay on installments. Found a used mobile home for $2,000 that we also had to pay for on installments. The month the well and septic tank went in, I had $10 left from my paycheck for the month. That's how tight it was for us to get started on our homestead.

More than once, we counted out the change we had in a pickle jar to pay for things we needed.

Fortunately, at the time, there were no zoning ordiances. The only permit we needed was for the septic tank. We built chicken houses, goat houses, etc. from scrounged rough lumber. Our parents helped us with things that we didn't have the skills or the equipment to do ourselves. Dad brought his tractor to pull small trees out of the garden spot, for example.

The bad part about things now, is this area has changed. Cost our neighbor a small fortune in permits, and such to build a house. Zoning out here in the country is so bad, that it's unreal as to what can and can't be done on our own property. I'm thankful that we're grandfathered for our outbuildings. But, I don't know how long that's going to last. Local small town ETJ is creeping closer and closer to us. I know of people in town who have had to tear down buildings and even homes because they don't meet the town's criterior of what's acceptable.

As to water, we have a good well. If the county ever brings water down our road, they will condem our well and force us to hook up to the county. Last I heard the tap on fee is $1,200. That doesn't include what it will cost to get water from the tap to our house.

Mentioned all this negative stuff to warn people to be SURE to check out everything relating to the county / city rules and regulations before staking out a homestead. At least that's the case here in NC, in this part of the state.

If you can find the right spot, yes, a homestead can be done on a shoe string, so to speak. Yard sales, flea markets, salvage yards are your friends. Over the years there's no telling how much we've saved by taking advantages of opportunities, when they've presented themselves. From gleaning corn after the mechancial pickers finished, for the goats, to picking up free pallets for the wood they contained.

Reply With Quote
Old 02/18/10, 10:07 AM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 40
Here is an interesting Blog by a couple living in Alaska in a tent:

A couple things I would point out before anyone considers doing this. The tent they are using cost as much as my entire cabin to build. tents are only temporary living and without additional insulation like they used would not be suitable for winter living.

They are storing batteries inside the tent with them that is not smart as batteries leak/offgas acid and explosive gasses that can kill people.

They are storing gas chainsaws and fuel oil in side the tent with a woodstove and are asking for trouble.

There electrical system is to complicated and a 12 volt system does not require a grid fuse box like they have used.

They are using a wood stove for primary heat and propane would have run many more appliances with a wood stove backup would have been a better choice.

They do not mention any bath or composting toilet in their tent and I appears they are using neighbors facilities for that purpose. A composting toilet and solar or propane shower would have been better.

Its a good article well worth reading but also shows a lot of mistakes people make when they decide to go off grid without an understanding of some basic survival principles.

Reply With Quote
Old 02/18/10, 07:47 PM
ErinP's Avatar
Too many fat quarters...
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: SW Nebraska, NW Kansas
Posts: 8,545
Originally Posted by Nevada View Post
Of course if a family member has some land you can use that's great, but that's not an option for most people.
I agree.
And if you're starting with land, you're already a long way ahead of "nothing"...
Reply With Quote
Old 02/18/10, 11:02 PM
chewie's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: central south dakota
Posts: 4,096
we bought land first, then built the house. paid 10 years on the land, owner financed us. have friends now that is bidding on a real nice place, house, barns, but over 250thous. ouch. they are young, but i worry about them taking such a big loan. they want move in ready, and are going to pay dearly for it. granted, our place, built with much scrounged stuff, has taken a big tole on us, and has taken over a year to work on.

but, i needed a place to work, and we have 2 teen daughters, so we needed the space, and didn't have time to build slower, paying as we went. dang, i sure woulda liked not having a mortage, even tho ours is nothing compared to most!

but, as i mentioned in first post, if it were just me and DH, starting out, i'd go his route in a heartbeat! i think, esp. in this current eco state, that that is the smart way to go.

Last edited by chewie; 02/18/10 at 11:04 PM.
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:36 PM.